Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
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message 1: by Vicki (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
Welcome to our discussion of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnavon. It tells the story of the estate that serves as the setting for the fantastically popular BBC series, Dowton Abbey, and the extraordinary woman who lived there as the fifth Countess of Carnavon. In both the show and in real life, the estate served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War I. Perhaps Russell and Holmes even ran into Lady Almina at some point in their adventures. It's fun to imagine, anyway. :)

message 2: by Vicki (last edited May 03, 2012 10:18AM) (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
Just got done, and boy were y'all ever right about this being a perfect LRK-related read! I enjoyed the pea-tar out of it--not only for the larger-than-life characters, but also for all the history we got to see through the prism of their lives and experiences. Much of that history we've seen via LRK's characters and stories.

Did anyone else find that his/her favorite character was Aubrey? I rather identified with his attitudes and reactions. I'm not sure why.

message 3: by Vicki (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
I think taking it in via audio might offer some advantages. The reader is really good, and she makes it sound like a lot of fun gossip with history mixed in. It gets a lot darker as it approaches WWI, of course. It's interesting to get a new viewpoint on that colossal train-wreck of a war.

message 4: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 223 comments Finally got it from the library this morning! I'll be able to chime in on the discussion in a few days. I may be side-tracked by Jennie Lawson's book first: Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

message 5: by Sabrina (last edited May 05, 2012 02:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments I have read 10% of the book so far. AGH. Must, get through non-fiction book... Does it come in TV documentary form by chance?

message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy Perry (Amy_Perry) | 201 comments Thought I'd post this little video as it's very apt for this discussion and VERY funny (in a British sort of way)

Enjoy :-) I hope it works!

message 7: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (MaryL1) | 165 comments Haven't got the book yet-far down on the library's reserve list and not sure I want to allocate part of my book-buying budget to it yet. However, could the focus here be on what the author thinks is important for her family to know about the era-i.e. whatever happened to Grandfather in the context of what was going on at the time? With an assumption that of course everyone knows what happened to Wilhelm?

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments Amy wrote: "Thought I'd post this little video as it's very apt for this discussion and VERY funny (in a British sort of way)"

Amy, I think the link is broken, it takes me somewhere strange.

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments farmwifetwo wrote: Very frustrating reading. It's more important to discuss Almina and money then it is to discuss the family.

I was hoping that would change as the book progressed. So far I am very disappointed with the narrative style. I was hoping for a personal look into life during that time. For example, it mentioned personal journals while the first Lady Carnavon was dying, but then just gives a brief overview of events.

Which just stinks, since I was looking forward to reading about the VAD hospital. I was doing some research for some writing recently and really enjoyed reading the personal journals of VAD nurses and soldiers that I found on the web. It's a shame, because for me it's those personal perspectives that bring history alive.

message 10: by Amy (new)

Amy Perry (Amy_Perry) | 201 comments Eek! Oh no!its so funny as well!

Try that, if not search plots and proposals, Victoria Wood in YouTube...hilarious....

message 11: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 223 comments I had a lazy Sunday and finished the book last night. It is what I was expecting it to be - a fairly light, glossed over look at a by-gone era, looked at with nostalgia. Since it is written by a member of the family, who isn't a historian or journalist, I really don't see how an in-depth, warts and all book could have been expected. I enjoyed reading it although in pretty much every aspect of it I did wish for more.

I will say, having recently romped through a re-read of the Amelia Peabody books, I kept expecting Emerson, Amelia and Ramses to show up during the tomb excavation! Funny to see a totally different side of it.

message 12: by Erin (new)

Erin (Tangential1) | 1089 comments Mod
There are a billion people in front of me in the library line for this book, so I have no idea when I'll get to read it.

That said...I'm totally baffling at the mention of Tutankhamun and tomb excavation. How did they go from a look at the Abbey to Egypt?? I did not see that in the dust jacket synopsis!

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments I'm interested (or telling myself I am) in finding out too, Erin. I'm still stuck on the part where it tells us how wonderful Almina is at spending tons of money. I was under the impression that the English aristocracy frowned on talking about money, but that's all they ever seem to talk about!

message 14: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (MaryL1) | 165 comments Avoiding the Peabody Emersons no doubt.

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments Mary wrote: "Avoiding the Peabody Emersons no doubt."

LOL! Love the Peabody books.

Ok, just had to comment on how cool the Victorian fire chutes were from the servants towers. If they give tours of the castle, I hope they let guests participate in a fire drill.

message 16: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 223 comments He-he-he!!! Go check out today's (May 9th) Google doodle!

message 17: by Jessica C. (new) - added it

Jessica C. (wispofacloud) | 25 comments Just read the prologue today. Based on comments here, I hope the writing style is to my taste. I adore historical stuff, but for me history has to be written in an engaging way. On top of that, I think I am reading too many books right now.

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments Jessica C. wrote: "Just read the prologue today. Based on comments here, I hope the writing style is to my taste. I adore historical stuff, but for me history has to be written in an engaging way. On top of that, ..."

I'm nearly done with it and I will say that it picks up. I'm not sure if I needed to get used to the narrative style or it just had a rocky beginning, but am enjoying it now.

Sabrina Flynn | 876 comments Sorry for long post!

I just finished this today, and ended up enjoying it once it got to the chapter, ‘Life Downstairs’. Almina really intrigued me, because she was so contradictory to my expectations. She came from a life of privilege and frivolous spending, but she never hesitated to get her hands dirty, working right along with the other nurses of her hospital. It was generous enough to fund the money for such hospitals, but her actions and attentions to personal comfort showed what a sympathetic spirit she had.

I think if she were a character in a fictional book, then the readers would be left thinking... no way, this person is too good to be true. One moment she’s spending tons of money on dresses, throwing fashionable parties, and then the next, rolls up her sleeves to tend gangrenous wounds and reaches out to families of dead soldiers even after her duty is done. Truly inspiring, and a very modern woman. Even before the War, she was pushing the boundaries, and did not seem to let the Victorian ideas of women get in her way. Although, I don’t know if my views of that era are skewed, or if she was an exception.

Loved her speech on women at the Newbury Unionist Women’s Association in 1911, part of which was, “...we are neither inferior nor superior, but only very different...”

I had a question for any historians out there. I was under the impression that WW1 snuck up on everyone. I’ve read reports that the summer of 1914 was idyllic and no one thought war was possible. But then in this it seemed that the Aristocratic class (or at least some) were fully expecting it, some trying to avoid it, and preparing for it. I’ve also heard that people were itching for war. I suppose all three could be true depending on class and temperament?

It was also interesting on a personal level to read that amnesia was part of shell shock/PSTD symptoms, since my father is dealing with memory loss that Doctors say is related to his PSTD. It’s gotten to the point where he is embarrassed to converse with anyone but my mom, so it was kind of reassuring, in an odd way, to find out WW1 veterans struggled with this. Does anyone know how the amnesia manifested itself? I know there are different degrees.

And one more point: The photograph of Almina sitting at her husband’s grave is just heart wrenching. Such a vision of grief. On one hand, I’m angry at the reporter for taking it, and on the other, pictures like that bring history to life and connect present lives to the past.

message 20: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (MaryL1) | 165 comments Finally got the book-actually the recorded book-from the library. Am only to Chap.5 but do find myself disappointed. This is my least favorite form of history-the "What she must have felt" type. I prefer primary source quotes, and Almina seems to have been the only Victorian girl without a diary, or at least it didn't survive. The author is doing a little better with the chapter on the staff as there seem to be extensive records and some quotes from actual staff of the era. I'll continue listening, maybe things pick up as the years progress?

Also, I find I am #15 on the wait list for Gods of Gotham so it may be awhile before I get the next group read.

message 21: by Vicki (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
Now that you mention it--it does seem unusual that Almina didn't keep some sort of diary. Keeping a journal was pretty common for ladies back then, from what I can tell. I agree that the what-she-musta-been-thinking format isn't ideal, but insofar as that format goes, it's pretty entertaining. It's a peek (though probably, I'd agree with Sheri, a whitewashed one) into a world that in many ways is as fantastical and unlikely to modern people as a trip to Narnia.

As for WWI, it was so many kinds of stupid, it's really hard to list them all. I've tried to read about the lead-up to the war several times, but always get so furious, I end up throwing the book against the wall. A whole gymnasium or two of people need to be revived, lined up, and slapped repeatedly over the whole idiotic thing.

message 22: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (MaryL1) | 165 comments Clear evidence of testosterone poisoning in my view.

message 23: by Vicki (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
That, along with the chest-bumping culture of the age. It may be somewhat sexist, but then, we've never had a chance to see an international landscape under the influence of estrogen.

Margaret | 122 comments Testosterone vs. estrogen! Oh, Mary and Vicki, I'm still laughing!

message 25: by Vicki (new)

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
It would be an interesting comparison, you have to admit! :D

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